China: Lacking Creativity?

Source: The Diplomat, Jul 2011

China’s best schools may produce the world’s best test-takers, but the United States’ best schools produce the world’s most creative talent.

… effectively learning must involve the learner emotionally. The very best US schools are seen as such because they inspire their students to be curious, interested, and excited; China’s very best schools gain their reputation by doing the opposite.

The best US education institutions endow students with creativity by providing a relaxed and secure learning environment in which students share in the refined emotional experiences of humanity by reading books and developing the logic necessary to share in collective emotional experiences through debate and essay writing. A dynamic learning environment allows students at many US schools to feel joy and despair, frustration and triumph, and it’s these ups and downs that encode the creative learning process into our neural infrastructure and make it so transformative.

A Chinese school is both a stressful and stale place, forcing students to remember facts in order to excel in tests. Neuroscientists know that stress hampers the ability of the brain to convert experience into memory, and psychologists know that rewarding students solely for test performance leads to stress, cheating, and disinterest in learning. But ultimately, the most harmful thing that a Chinese school does, from a creativity perspective, is the way in which it separates emotion from memory by making learning an unemotional experience.

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